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Dutch court approves 14-year-old Laura Dekker's solo sailing bid

DUTCH judges have given the green light for a teenage girl's bid to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, rejecting attempts to keep her under state supervision.

"The court rejects the request for the extension of supervision" of child care authorities over 14-year-old Laura Dekker, judge Suzanne Kuypers said in the Middelburg district court in the south of the country.

"The supervision of the child is lifted with immediate effect."

The Child Protection Council, a justice ministry body, asked the court last week to extend Dekker's supervision by 12 months to August 2011 in a bid to stop her departure, citing fears for her social and emotional wellbeing.

Dekker, who has the backing of her parents, needs to complete the two-year trip before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012, to set a new record.

"I am so extremely happy. I nearly jumped in the water," the teen told told journalists at Den Oss in the south of the country where she lives on a boat with her father, Dick, and dog, Spot.

Australian teenage sailor Jessica Watson says good preparation will be the key to a 14-year-old Dutch girl's bid to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

She won the 10-month legal battle but an appeal has not been ruled out.

Laura's plans to set sail last September were thwarted by the intervention of child care officials and a subsequent court ruling placing her under their supervision until July 1, when the school year ended.

Laura, who has the backing of her parents, would need to complete the two-year trip before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012, to set a new record.

In May, Australia's Jessica Watson became the youngest person at 16 to sail around the world non-stop, solo and unassisted.

US teenager Abby Sunderland was on a similar mission in June, but she had to be plucked from her stricken yacht in the Indian Ocean.

However, the World Speed Sailing Record Council does not recognise records set by sailors under 18. Jessica told AAP she hoped Laura had done her homework.

``I don't know much about Laura or her voyage, but the one piece of advice I was given over and over again was the emphasis is on preparation,'' she said.

``The right boat, the right equipment and the experience is what it's about.''

According to Laura's blog, sailing has been a life-long passion for the Dutch youngster, who was born aboard of a boat off the coast of New Zealand.

``If everything works out I will be able to start on my voyage and sail to Portugal within the next two weeks,'' Laura wrote on her blog on July 25, before the hearing.

At age 11 she set sail on a solo trip to the northern Dutch province of Friesland and by 13 she had sailed from Holland to England.

She said she planned to set sail for Portugal within two weeks, from where her voyage "will officially start" to the Canary Islands, Panama, Polynesia, Tahiti, Australia "and back".

Kuypers said the verdict "puts the responsibility for the child back where it belongs: with the parents".

"It is the responsibility of the parents to let the child go on the yacht trip or not."

Since the intervention of child care authorities in her life, the girl suffered "a serious emotional setback," added the judge.

"But she has picked up the pieces. This is evident from the fact that she registered good results at school."

Dekker's plans to set sail last September were thwarted by the intervention of child care officials and a subsequent court ruling placing her under their supervision until July 1, when the school year ended.

In December, she breached the court order, running away to the Dutch Caribbean island territory of Sint Maarten. Police had to escort her back home.

The supervision was later extended to August 1.

Child Protection Council spokesman Richard Bakker said at the court it "respected" the judgement, but did not rule out an appeal.

"She is 14. She is a child," he insisted. The council had told a hearing last week that Dekker was too young to appreciate the risks of her endeavour.

"If she sails now, then her parents would have made the decision. That is their responsibility," added Mr Bakker.

The court said it "could not establish that Laura's socio-emotional and identity development is under threat" as alleged.

Dekker said in Den Oss she looked forward to her record attempt and was not afraid.
"Everything is prepared on my boat," she said.

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/dutc...-1225897834619

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Posted in: News by NewsBot on August 7, 2010 @ 2:27 PM

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